Monday, March 17, 2014

On Banning Bossy

It was my sister who first brought the "Ban Bossy" campaign to my attention, when we were discussing our niece and her, uh, leadership tendencies, if a two-year-old shouting, "No! You do it!" can be described as a leader.

Since then, I've watched the video and read various posts on it, and I've been mulling over why it doesn't sit quite right with me. Initially I thought my knee-jerk eye roll was due to yet another "Treat girls like boys" sentiment. But the truth is that I don't have my own children and I haven't observed enough children of both genders to know if their respective bossiness is indeed handled differently. Sheryl Sandberg, who is spearheading the movement, has apparently been keeping up her data analysis at the playground while I'm racing my niece to the slide. And that, I suppose, is why Sheryl is the COO of Facebook and I am a person who wastes time on Facebook. I thought it only fair to dig deeper and ask myself if she was on to something.

Here is what I know: The same sister I mentioned above has many childhood memories of being shoved into a costume and made to play a supporting role of my choosing. When my parents told me I was being too bossy, they weren't trying to stifle my ambitions. In fact, they got me involved in theatre programs at a young age and always encouraged my talents. But they also placed great emphasis on being kind and fair to others; what they wanted to discourage was my propensity for treating my friends like props and disregarding their ideas. If I was emulating a leader, it was of the dictator variety. (I never saw them treat my brother differently, mostly because he is the youngest and never stood a chance at being bossy.)

I've realized that what ultimately bothers me about "Ban Bossy" is its oversimplification of the issue. True leaders create other leaders. They accept feedback, trade ideas, and seek out talent to enhance the team. So perhaps some parents are quicker to notice unkind behavior in their daughters than in their sons. And yes, some men have built their careers on getting others to do their bidding. Rather than want girls to grow up to do the same, don't we owe it to all children to teach them a bigger lesson? I don't have an alliterative catchphrase, but I think we can do better than boycotting a word. By all means, intervene when you witness bossiness in your sons and daughters, and instead teach them real leadership values that will not only be good for their career, but also for the world.

xo cbg


  1. Great topic. I was just talking to my friend about this. I told her nice doesn't always work in business but that doesn't mean she's not a nice person!
    Hope all is well,

  2. That's a very good point, Sharon. I definitely think some women are afraid to assert themselves in case they are perceived as not being "nice," and I am all for banning that. Hope you had a lovely Purim! xo

  3. It is most definitely being oversimplified, and I love your take. "Bossy" has negative connotations because it is not leadership. And a man who was "bossy" would simply be referred to as a SOB. Women should be flattered.

    As an aside, when boys are girls are educated separately, gender roles aren't as vehemently enforced. The tomboys in Bais Yaakovs are the top of the heap. I went into detail (along with linked articles) here:

    By my family, however, if there is a niece who is "bossy," we consider that to be a plus, because she is taking care of things, worrying about her little siblings and getting them ready for the bus and making their lunches (she's 6). Good girl!

  4. So true! Plenty of men are disliked if they are bossy rather than real leaders.

    I'm all for schools being separated by gender, and I love your post. They have done so many studies citing the benefits of it. And your niece sounds awesome. :)

  5. She is awesome. I have to remind her more.


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